USB Killer Attacks: What They Are and How to Prevent Them

Untitled design (6)

What's in this article?


USB (Universal Serial Bus) sticks have become a staple in our digital lives due to their affordability and convenience. They offer flexibility and portability for data storage, but they also come with risks.

While most people are aware of the dangers of downloading data from untrustworthy digital sources, physical threats, such as those posed by USB drives, can be equally harmful. These seemingly innocuous devices can carry malware or even cause permanent damage to your computer’s hardware.

Let’s delve into the workings of a USB killer and how you can protect yourself from such attacks.


What Are USB Killer Attacks?

USB Killer attacks are a type of malicious activity aimed at damaging electronic devices, including causing irreversible harm to PC hardware. The attack is executed through a modified USB flash drive, exploiting the USB port’s capacity to quickly charge and discharge a significant amount of electricity. By directing a high voltage current (210-220 volts) through the USB port, the device’s hardware can be physically damaged, potentially frying its internal circuits and rendering it inoperable.

Initially developed as a penetration testing method to assess a device’s resilience to power surges, this technology has been co-opted by cybercriminals seeking to damage or destroy the devices of unsuspecting users. Other USB-based attacks aim to steal login credentials or install ransomware or spyware.

USB Killer manufacturers assert that their products are intended for users wishing to test their devices’ vulnerability to such attacks. However, the accessibility of this technology also, unfortunately, makes it available to those with malicious intent.

This inexpensive and straightforward attack method can even be deployed remotely. A sophisticated attack could be scheduled and executed from the perpetrator’s mobile device, as facilitated by products offered by USB Kill, a leading provider of this technology. Some USB killers are equipped with a rechargeable battery, enabling them to affect the host device even when it’s powered off.

Designed to resemble a regular USB device, such as a flash drive or a mouse, these attacks can be difficult to detect. A physical inspection of the device would be necessary to confirm its harmful nature. However, there are several steps you can take to safeguard your devices against these attacks.

Precautionary Measures

The most important step is to be aware of the potential danger and exercise caution when connecting devices to your computer. Only connect USB devices that you trust and always inspect the device for any outwardly suspicious signs or indicators. Consider its origin and only use devices from a trusted source. Avoid plugging in a random device found in public.

Security Awareness

Employees play a crucial role in protecting computers from USB Killers, so it’s essential for your organization to provide ongoing cybersecurity training and reminders. Employees should be educated about the risk of connecting an unfamiliar USB drive to a company computer and how USB Killers can be disguised as other common objects.

Enhanced Protection

To prevent a USB Killer from entering a computer, a low-tech solution such as capping USB drives could be employed. This physically blocks the device, but it also prevents the insertion of any legitimate USB drives.

Consider using a surge protector to shield your computer and other devices from unexpected power surges. This can prevent accidental damage caused by a USB Killer attack. Other precautionary measures, such as disabling or hiding unused USB ports, can be used to protect hardware. However, this may be more of a temporary solution and is not exactly ideal.

Another way to identify a USB Killer without disassembling it is by using a USB killer detector. This small and inexpensive device can detect USB Kill drives before they damage hardware.

Some organizations have attempted to regulate the use of external media due to the security issues it can create. If not managed properly, USB sticks can be used to upload files to the cloud, posing multiple risks, from physical damage to the system to potential data loss.

The threat posed by USB Killers is a stark reality. It’s crucial to take precautionary steps to protect your organization’s data through increased awareness and security training.

A comprehensive business plan should include a list of the resources needed to run your organization. Given the increasing prevalence of cyber attacks, cybersecurity measures should undoubtedly be a part of your continuity planning.

At GAM Tech, we help small businesses strengthen their IT infrastructure with reliable and accountable managed IT services. Our offerings include cybersecurity training, multifactor authentication setup, and advanced email filtering to protect your business from cyberattacks.

With our affordable services, you gain the benefits of an in-house IT consultant without the high costs. We help safeguard your data, optimize your technology budget, and provide customized reports and recommendations to overcome current and future challenges.

By incorporating robust cybersecurity measures into your business plan, you can ensure continuity and protection against the growing threat of cyberattacks. Reach out to GAM Tech to enhance your IT infrastructure and secure your business against potential threats.

Posted by GAM Tech Team on Apr 4, 2023 9:50:51 AM

Topics: cybersecurity, usb, hardware

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Recent Posts